Distinguished Alum Gregory Mosher Inspires IC Students
The Ithaca College All-Theatre Alumni Reunion last month was primarily an event for alumni, but current theatre students as well were very excited about the reunion. Some wanted to network with alumni, some wanted a glimpse of the past that the reunion might provide, others merely wanted to party – it’s safe to say that all of those wishes were granted. Our students took alums on tours of the renovated Dillingham, engaged in alum/student sessions geared to mutual areas of interest, and volunteered as general helpers at the lunch and gala dinner on Saturday. Perhaps the most exciting event for our students occurred an hour or so before the reunion officially began, when distinguished alumnus Gregory Mosher, who attended Ithaca College in the late 1960s and early 1970s, kindly agreed to speak to more than 200 students gathered in the Hoerner Theatre at 4 pm on Friday afternoon.
Mosher is a Tony-award-winning director who worked regularly with playwright David Mamet on first productions of "American Buffalo", "Glengarry Glen Ross", and "Speed-the-Plow" among many other collaborations. As artistic director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and later the Lincoln Center Theatre, Mosher revitalized these organizations when they were struggling to find direction. More recently Mosher joined the faculty at Columbia University to as the first director of that school’s Arts Initiative, which offers its students free admission to many New York City museums and free or discounted tickets to many performing arts events. Via the Arts Initiative Mosher also arranged residencies at Columbia for legendary director Peter Brook and dissident playwright turned President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel. Last year Mosher donned his director’s hat once again with a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s "A View From the Bridge", featuring Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson, and he is set to direct a revival of Jason Miller’s "That Championship Season", with Brian Cox, Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric, in spring 2011.
In his talk with the students, Mosher was disarmingly casual, chatting in a seemingly rambling style that was actually very carefully planned. He began speaking of his early days with Mamet in Chicago, before either was well known, in the early days of Chicago’s Off-Loop theatre scene. He gained the students’ attention almost instantly, because he was speaking of a time when young artists not much older than our students created a new and vibrant theatre, implying that if he and others had done it once upon a time, our own students could do it now. In fact, he assured them, for theatre to keep at the cutting edge, it had to be re-invented, not by established types like him, but by energetic new voices experimenting with new theatrical form.
Mosher next chronicled his move to Lincoln Center. After a number of powerful producers/directors including Elia Kazan and Joseph Papp had failed to make that theatre work, he faced the daunting task of making it succeed. He boldly discarded subscriptions and instead offered inexpensive tickets to excellent productions, and succeed it did. Mosher once more implanted the idea in our students’ heads that they could, and in fact must cast off old models and invent the theatre anew.
Lastly Mosher spoke of his recent move to academe, and of the joy that he takes in conversing with students at Columbia University. He then posed one of his favorite questions to the students: “What’s on your mind? What do you want to talk about?” This prompted instant questions to which he responded, bantering back and forth until time constraints forced an end to a discussion that could have lasted for hours.
Mosher’s session with our students left them reeling, excited, and energized. Some promised to stalk Mosher on Saturday, and a few had very pleasant encounters. Gregory Mosher has spoken to our seniors on several occasions at Field Studies, but his session on 22 October was addressed to freshmen as well as the older students, and inspired some at least to roll up their sleeves and change the world of theatre.